CLERMONT, Ind. – Reece Gold and Michael d’Orlando earned poles in their respective classes Thursday in advance of the Road to Indy portion of the Carb Night Classic at Lucas Oil Raceway Friday evening.
Last year’s USF2000 champion, Christian Rasmussen, from Copenhagen, Denmark, had paced the Indy Pro 2000 field during a pair of test sessions earlier Thursday, but when it mattered in qualifying, Gold laid down the best two laps in 41.7287 seconds, an average speed of 118.365 mph.
Gold, who finished third in last year’s USF2000 title-chase, had developed an affinity for the Lucas Oil Raceway oval while finishing second one year ago. After sweeping all three Indy Pro 2000 poles on the road course recently, the teenager rose to the task again this evening. Now he has his eyes set on an overdue maiden victory.
“This is awesome – it’s not the big track, but it’s still great,” said Gold. “It means a lot to be on pole on an oval in Indianapolis just two days before the Indy 500. And with three poles at the grand prix, I guess there’s just something about Indianapolis. We’ve been doing really well lately and I’m really happy. The track changed a bit from practice but we made some last-minute changes to the car and it was super good for qualifying. On the out lap, you have time to get a feel for where you are with the car and from there, it’s just a matter of going as fast as you can. I’m really looking forward to the race tomorrow.”
Series point leader Braden Eves will start second tomorrow evening for the Exclusive Autosport team, with Rasmussen and Gold’s teammate, Manuel Sulaiman on row two of the grid.
Also impressive was Ireland’s James Roe, marking his oval track debut by qualifying strongly in fifth for Turn 3 Motorsport.
There have been mixed emotions so far this season for d’Orlando. Last time out on the road course he was disappointed to qualify mid-pack, only to post three spectacular charges to notch a trio of top-four finishes and vault himself into championship contention. The youngster will have rather less to do tomorrow after securing his first USF2000 pole position, although he still faces the significant challenge of holding off the remainder of a stacked 24-car field for 75 laps.
“I am so happy – I never thought my first series pole would come on an oval,” exclaimed d’Orlando. “I knew we had some work to do after the first test session; we made some improvements to the car and to my driving and we were much quicker in the second session. At that moment, I knew I had the pace, since my quickest times were at the end of the session when the tires were falling off. It was an interesting qualifying, with gusty winds. You could go hard into Turn One because you were into the wind, but you lost the aero in Turn Two, so you really had to drive to what the wind was doing – and I guess I did! I kind of surprised myself, running two laps at a 22.5, but I’m super proud of the job the team and I did and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”
Prescott Campbell will start second with Pabst Racing teammates Josh Pierson and top rookie qualifier Jace Denmark sharing row two.
Christian Brooks and Kiko Porto will start fifth and sixth, with championship leader Yuven Sundaramoorthy down in eighth behind Englishman Matt Round-Garrido.